It has been more than ten weeks since Meyer’s offices closed and staff began working remotely when the pandemic hit Oregon. We thought we might be out for two weeks, but, like everyone else, we are adjusting as the world changes around us.
One thing that hasn’t changed is our value of responsiveness and our commitment to meeting our grantee partners where they are. As a foundation that centers equity in all of our work, we wanted to partner with organizations that gave us the best chance to deliver on that promise in a matter of days, not months. We know that no organization can do it all alone in times like this, so we have partnered with a range of philanthropic peers to ensure that nearly $2 million in grants from Meyer reached all corners of the state. This collaborative and multi-faceted response allowed us to support impacted Oregonians who may otherwise be made invisible in this moment, and to do so quickly by trusting partners who are in closest relationships with those communities to move resources where they are most needed.
Within the first week of closing our offices, we made grants to relief funds to support communities across Oregon to deal with immediate impacts of COVID-19. As realities of the pandemic continued unfolding and new relief efforts emerged, we contributed to funds addressing needs among some of the populations most impacted by the novel coronavirus, specifically undocumented workers, LGBTQ+ communities, as well as women and girls. Meyer grants in immediate response to COVID-19 include:
- $330,000 to MRG Foundation's Community Response Fund to rapidly deploy resources to grassroots organizations working with vulnerable populations at the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon.
- $1 million to the Oregon Community Recovery Grant Program at Oregon Community Foundation, which provides funds to nonprofit service providers in communities across the state that are particularly affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Meyer staff is now participating on Community Advisory panels for the fund.
- $175,000 to Pride Foundation’s Crisis Community Care Fund to help sustain organizations meeting the critical needs of LGBTQ+ communities in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
- $150,000 to the Women’s Foundation COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund which provides support to domestic violence shelters, survivors of violence, organizations providing basic services to women, behavioral and mental health supports for children and youth as well as advocacy and organizing around gender inequities.
- $250,000 to the Oregon Worker Relief Fund which provides financial support directly to Oregonians who have lost their jobs yet are ineligible for unemployment insurance and federal stimulus relief due to their immigration status. This fund was created by and is managed by community leaders, and draws on both public and private support, including a $10 million investment from the State of Oregon.
While $2 million is significant, it is far from the whole of Meyer’s response. Indeed, these immediate resources were deployed at the same time that we opened our Annual Funding Opportunity, through which more than $20 million will be awarded this year. Ensuring that our largest grantmaking process proceeds uninterrupted means that support can flow to work aligned with our strategic portfolios — Building Community, Equitable Education, Healthy Environment and Housing Opportunities — all of which continue to focus on undoing long-standing inequities that are now amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this moment of uncertainty, we are maintaining Meyer’s steadfast commitment to grantmaking. Despite significant volatility in financial markets, we have not reduced our grant budget and we remain committed to staying above the 5 percent payout required of philanthropic foundations.
We prioritized keeping the 2020 Annual Funding Opportunity moving but also offered flexibility, including deadline extensions for organizations requesting a bit more time and even experimenting with a few applicants on accepting proposals they had submitted to other funders. As we continue to adapt our approach to the work to meet our communities where they are at, we will keep listening to and learning from what our grantee partners are experiencing to ensure that our annual funding is responsive to COVID-19 realities. We don’t have it all figured out, but we are trying to meet this moment with flexibility and allow the circumstances to accelerate our learning to embrace more effective and trust based philanthropic practices.
Like many organizations and communities across the state, we are also thinking about how to address immediate needs, significant and growing as they are, while making space to reimagine the better future Oregonians deserve. We know inequities that existed prior to COVID-19 will persist — and gaps will only widen — if we don’t implement community-driven solutions to build new and more just systems. A significant portion of Meyer’s grantmaking budget for the next year is allocated for just this kind of radical reimagining work. We will continue to use our voice in advocacy and communications to lift up solutions.
As we move into the next phase of COVID-19 response, Meyer is committed to coming into community with nonprofit partners who understand systemic inequities better than anyone — to help us identify a strategic path forward. They know and we know that a new normal has always been needed. A flourishing and equitable Oregon for all, no exceptions. We are eager and honored to partner with communities to build the future they have dreamed of and worked for. Now is the moment.